Have you ever wanted to turn the key and walk away from all your stuff? Live by a small bag and card-table and folding chair, with bare or nearly bare walls?
I have been longing to, needing to, planning to downsize. Progress has been made, for sure, but now I am at my Picket’s Charge, my Battle of Balaclava, my Thermopylae.
I am up against the wall: a wall, walls actually, of books.
There are so many hours and tears, so much money and sweat, in these books. My shelves are stuffed with hopes and dreams and joys and cherished gifts.
I am very low.
Into the outer darkness I have already with cold-blood banished clothing, superannuated gadgets, obsolete electronics, tchotchkes, duplicates, anchors around my neck and ankles, and I feel the better for it. There are always the impossible choices, of course, such as too-large thing that is all you have left from a grandmother. Vestments… even vestments, ladies and gentlemen.
Now, however, I am sorting and culling and packing books. I am getting rid of books. I love books, except when I hate them. Odi at amo.
What to do?
No phrase is more deadly to the downsizer than, “This could be useful!”
Which one goes? “You, old friend? You, newcomer, whom I enjoyed and found helpful?”
Via the Laudator I read this great snippet from George Orwell’s Keep the Aspidistra Flying:
In all book-shops there goes on a savage Darwinian struggle in which the works of living men gravitate to eye-level and the works of dead men go up or down—down to Gehenna or up to the throne, but always away from any position where they will be noticed. Down in the bottom shelves the “classics,” the extinct monsters of the Victorian age, were quietly rotting. […] Dull-eyed, he gazed at the wall of books. He hated the whole lot of them, old and new, highbrow and lowbrow, snooty and chirpy.
I have a dark fantasy of relieving myself of this glorious useful alluring impedimenta through a massive hecatomb by flames.
Fire sale! Everything must GO!
“But Father! But Father!”, some of you are saying, “Give them away! Sell them! Don’t just dumpsterize them! Don’t, God forbid, burn them!”
But… books. They’re books!